In 1981, a children’s book called Goodnight Mr Tom was published and became a well loved classic amongst adults and children with its heartbreaking story of love, abuse and loss of lives during World War II. In 1998 a television adaption was made starring John Thaw which has now become a well loved Christmas classic on TV.
At the beginning or World War II, the children of London were shipped out of the city for their own protection and sent to live with strangers in less dangerous towns like Dorset. William is placed with Tom Oakley, a widowed man who has shut himself off from the world since the loss of his wife forty years ago. William comes from a strict religious and abusive family but with the help of Mr Tom, comes out of his shell and thrives. But when William’s mother sends a telegram stating she is ill and needs him to return home, no one hears from him again. Has he just forgotten about his new friends or has something happened to him? Tom and his trusty dog Sammy take a trip to London to find out.
I last saw the play in 2012 at the Phoenix Theatre and it was a real delight to watch. Luckily, three years on and it hasn’t lost any of its charm. The casting is always perfect for this show and the acting combined with the story always manages to bring more than a few tears to my eyes.
Alex Taylor-McDowall played the role of William at the performance I saw and the role of Zach by Oliver Loades. You couldn’t ask for better children to perform these roles with Alex embodying the well natured, reserved character and Oliver playing the overly confident dramatic child. David Troughton gave John Thaw a run for his money as the withdrawn Mr Oakley who rediscovers his heart when he takes in a child unwillingly. There are some very beautiful moments between them and the majority of the audience were sobbing by the end of the show.
The book, the film and the stage show all have their own special qualities to them. I highly recommend all three but don’t miss this wonderful stage show during its London run or around the UK on tour.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Goodnight Mr Tom is playing at the Duke of Yorks Theatre until 20 February when it will then go straight out on tour starting at the Manchester Opera House on 23 February. For full tour dates and tickets for the tour click here